Monday, June 13, 2011

In Defense of Fruit

Is an orange as bad as a Pepsi?
The main sugar in fruit is fructose.  Fructose has been shown to be a cause of many health problems.  In fact, it has been implicated as the cause of fatty liver disease which many now believe is the precursor to Type 2 diabetes.  I will not argue this as there is solid science to support it.

I will argue that fruit is a good source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.  It satisfies a sweetness craving and has a net positive affect on health.  Quenching this sweetness craving with fruit is a far superior option than foods sweetened with cane sugar, beet sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and the myriad mad scientist, artificial sweeteners available today. 

Fructose is a problem because people consume it in super concentrated forms.  Fruit juices, sports drinks, and carbonated beverages are THE fructose problem in America not apples, oranges, and watermelon.  A good nutritional database site is .  I decided to find the fructose content of some fruits and drinks Americans commonly consume.  

  • Medium apple - 10,738 mg fructose
  • Large banana - 6,772 mg fructose
  • 1 cup watermelon - 5,174 mg fructose
  • 1 cup grapes - 12,776 mg fructose
  • 1 cup strawberry - 3,513 mg fructose
  • 8 oz. unsweetened fruit juice - 16,148 mg fructose
  • 20 oz. Cola - 37,415 mg fructose
  • 20 oz. Popular sports drink - 19,588 mg fructose

Most HFCS sweetened beverage drinkers I know drink at least 2 bottles per day (if not a lot more).  So two 20 oz. colas a day would be about 75,000 mg of fructose/day.  That would be two apples, 3 bananas, and 4 cups of strawberries.  That is way more fruit than anyone I know eats.  Fruit is a dense source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals that the drinks just do not have.

I know that the genetically modified fruits in grocery stores are breed to be much sweeter (containing more fructose) than what can be found in the wild.  Fruit was an occasional treat for our ancestors and for non-agricultural primitive tribes living today.  As you clean your diet of sweetened foods and beverages, a piece of fruit will start to seem very sweet to you.  You will find fruits to be satisfying as an occasional treat but not something you can sit down and eat mass quantities of.  The amount of fruit that is safe to eat will be dependent on an individual's health status.  Diabetics, people with gout, and people attempting to lose weight should be wary of how much fruit they eat.

In the end, I say enjoy some quality fruit as a treat.  There are plenty of redeeming qualities of fruit that make it a much better source of fructose than nutritionally void, fructose concentrated beverages.



Jan said...

I stopped fearing fructose in fruit sometime in the last couple of months. it made sense to me, as you point out here, that apples, grapes, cantaloupe, watermelon and blueberries are not the problem - sodas and fruit juices are. And because we try to eat seasonally, with the exception of the the occasional banana, apple or pear we don't eat a lot of fruit in the winter. Now that it is summer, we are purchasing what is available in moderate amounts, which means I'm REALLY enjoying strawberries right now. :)

Chuck said...

My daughter caught our dog eating our strawberries out of our little patch. I couldn't believe she could nibble her way through the ripe ones while leaving the green ones. The patch is dense so the good ones aren't that easy to find. She picked it clean of the ready ones.

My wife is going to take the kids to a pick your own strawberry farm real soon now.

Be said...

Very well said. Fruit is dessert and a far better choice than sugar laden desserts, and frankly plenty sweet if one's diet is in balance. I also appreciate that you point out that some of us can tolerate them better than others. The priority of glucose ingestion should be proteins, low carb vegetables, moderate carb veggies, then fruit. Those with blood sugar issues can live on meat (alone?) and low carb veggies. Once a good balance is attained, the others can be added in a balanced diet. Some might even be able to tolerate grains, but I don't see the point - I would MUCH prefer the fruits, with their fructose.

Good post!